Sunday, 19 April 2015

Thunderbirds are Go! The new series

I've mentioned before now on this blog that Thunderbirds was very important to me as a child. The news that a new, CGI Thunderbirds was in production filled me with a mixture of excitement and dread.

I've now seen the first few episodes of the new Thunderbirds are Go – and so far I like what I see.

The craft have been redesigned – but they are still the iconic craft of the original, effectively not significantly different in basic image.

Thunderbird 2 is more angular, and more solid-looking. The new design has grown on me - I now like it.

TB3's robot arms gave me pause for a moment, but I can cope with them - they're a little too "Japanese Mecha" for my tastes, but they aren't totally illogical.

Thunderbird 4 is a little sleeker, and lacks the lighting panel over the nose, but is fundamentally the same craft.

The exception is TB5, which has become a more plausible space station, but still has enough elements to make it clear that it shares DNA with the original. Since Gerry Anderson was never happy with the original, I think the change can be approved.


Tintin has become Kayo, and is now in charge of security. The name change was necessary because of potential confusion with a certain Belgian boy detective. Her change of role was entirely appropriate – the series needed more dynamic female roles.. The creators could have made one of the brothers female, but I suspect that would have upset the diehard fans of the original far more. Me included, frankly – it would have been difficult to get that right. Making Tintin more of a member of the team, and giving her a craft of her own, was entirely right. And calling her craft TB Shadow is right, too – TB6 would have carried all the wrong connotations (I was never a great fan of the film Thunderbird 6).

Jeff Tracy is missing – but it means that John, always the poor relation, suddenly becomes far more significant, taking on his father's role. And it also gives a background story arc. I think this was a good decision.

Lady Penelope... hmmm. I'm not so sure about her appearance, at present – she hasn't, to my eyes, got the necessary style that the original Penelope had. I'll wait and see what we see of her before I pass further judgment. On the other hand, she sounds right and acts appropriately. And I am really pleased to see Parker back, and voiced by David Graham.

Brains is now Indian. This is the 21st century – it actually doesn't make sense that all the cast would be white. Brains was a logical character to use to diversify the racial mix.

The brothers themselves – the CGI versions mostly look uncannily like the originals. Scott, particularly, looks absolutely right, as does John. Virgil is a little different from the original, but not unreasonably so, and Gordon and Alan are okay. I've read criticism that the CGI characters look like puppets. I think that was the right decision – they've used something akin to the puppet proportions and skin to remind us of the original, while getting the benefits of CGI (the characters can walk, jump, and climb!). But they've kept something of the look of the original as well. I think it's a very good compromise.

So far, the plots have been right, too. Action and adventure, no talking down or “kiddifying” it. They haven't made the cast adolescents or tried to make it somehow “kid-friendly”. Speaking as someone who as a kid thoroughly enjoyed a series about adults, I am very relieved they didn't change this. And there are people in real peril being rescued in the nick of time from serious dangers.

Some other things have changed. None of the characters smoke any more. Absolutely right.  And also the world is no longer atomic powered (“Crosscut” expressly says the world has turned its back on nuclear fission power) – yes, this is the 21st century, so a more ecologically friendly series makes sense. I'll be interested to see if we ever see the return of ecology-munching machines like the Crablogger. Somehow I doubt it.


And finally, we have the introduction. I don't mind admitting that I choked up on hearing Jeff Tracy's countdown. It's a reminder of the original series that works brilliantly. The title sequence is effectively new, but it harks back perfectly to the original, complete with the snapshot of what is to come in this episode. I miss the “fast” music that played under that snapshot in the original, but the title sequence itself tells us that this is still Thunderbirds.

My only significant complaint (are you listening, idiot management at ITV?) is putting it on at 8am on Saturday mornings. They ought to have kept the 5pm slot where the pilot was broadcast. Instead, they're broadcasting a repeat of a hidden camera show in that slot. Madness. The management of ITV are stupid.

Because the show they've got is one that ought to be a major success with families, not just with kids.

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